Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has vetoed three police reform bills approved by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, even though all three bills earned enough votes to overturn the vetoes. The Republican governor vetoed legislation that would have repealed employment protections in the police discipline procedure, as had been established in other parts of the U.S.
The approved package includes a statewide use-of-force policy and the mandatory use of body cameras by July 2025. Limits on no-knock warrants are also included in the legislation. Except in an emergency, police could only use no-knock warrants between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Also, according to the new law, a police officer accused of causing serious injuries or death by using excessive force faces ten years in prison.
Hogan said in his veto statement that the bills would “further erode police morale, community relationships, and public confidence.”
“They will cause substantial damage to police recruitment and retention, posing significant risks to public safety throughout our state,” Hogan wrote.
The repealed police job protections are known as the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. It has long been seen as a barrier to officer compliance and transparency, according to critics. It was first introduced in Maryland in 1974, and since then, about 20 states have enacted similar legislation, establishing due process procedures for investigating police brutality.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat from Baltimore County, appointed a commission to focus on police reform legislation in May, after national demonstrations against police violence in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. She was the primary sponsor of the bill.
“I am not someone who hates the police, but over the years I’ve had my own experiences with law enforcement, as have my brothers and my two sons,” said Jones, the state’s first Black House speaker.
Hogan also wrote that the two measures approved by the legislature would proceed without his signature.
One of them proposes establishing a team within the attorney general’s office to investigate police-involved deaths and prohibiting law enforcement from purchasing surplus military equipment. The other would allow Baltimore residents to determine whether the state’s largest city should take complete oversight of the police department from the state.
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In recent years, Maryland has dealt with police transparency issues. Since Freddie Gray died of a broken neck while was in police custody in 2015, Baltimore’s police department entered a federal consent decree. The next year, lawmakers approved some department reforms, but critics said they were insufficient.
Before the House of Delegates voted on the first veto overturn, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Democrat who leads a justice work group, mentioned all of those who have died in police custody in Maryland.
“It’s time for police officers who don’t follow the proper law to pay the consequences,” Atterbeary said. “It’s time that other mothers like myself, other fathers, sisters, and brothers don’t have to worry about their loved ones when they go off, and are they going to come home when they get stopped by the police.”